After the spring spawn ends, many anglers in Southern climates believe the “crappie season” also wrapped up for the year. True, the best crappie action frequently occurs during the pre-spawn and spawn, but crappie must eat all year long.
“Post spawn can be a tough time to catch crappie,” lamented Thomas Hill, a professional crappie angler from Memphis, Tenn. “Crappie are stressed and in transition. In the post-spawn period, it’s about finding scattered fish. Usually, we catch a fish here and a fish there, or perhaps two or three fish from one spot.”
After spawning, females generally head down creek channels to deeper water, making them more difficult to find. A creek channel heading into a spawning flat provides fish a highway to use as they transition from deep to shallow water or back, and makes a good place to intercept large crappie. Also look for slabs near deep, woody cover or around any bottom variations, such as humps, drops, ledges, stumps, rock piles, or anything different on the bottom.
Where legal, some anglers search for crappie with spider rigs. With a spider rig, anglers use several rods, each baited with two or three different jigs or jig and minnow combinations. With this vertical method, anglers can fish multiple baits and depths simultaneously to zero in on what fish want that day. Crappie often suspend, looking up to spot baitfish silhouetted against the surface so keep the baits just above the school of fish or cover.
“During the post-spawn, fish are usually in deeper water, but not necessarily on the bottom,” explained Steve Ferguson, a professional crappie angler from Puryear, Tenn. “They could suspend above the structure. When a spring cold front moves through an area, it pushes fish down into structure. When the temperature drops, fish hold tighter to structure. When fish don’t want to bite, I back off and go right across the brush pile and back. Sometimes, we have to aggravate fish into biting.”
After finding them, many anglers work over small areas with jigs. Almost like bass fishing, anglers cast light spinning rods baited with various lures around brush piles. Hit the brush pile from all angles and experiment with various depths. Anglers can use tube jigs, spinnerbaits, tiny jerkbaits or small crank baits to probe cover edges.
“Sometimes, I cast 1/8-ounce jigs on an ultralight spinning rod for post-spawn crappie,” advised Joey Briggs, a professional angler from Dexter, Ky. “I throw the jig past the brush pile and count down until the bait hits the right depth. I like to fish a jig just above the brush pile. If I think I’m going too slowly, I slow it down some more.”
In lakes with little natural cover, many anglers build their own brush piles, but most try to keep the locations of their favorite piles more secret than the plans for the invasion of Normandy! However, many lakes hold abundant visible cover that can often provide incredible spring action. In the spring, crappie often congregate under docks because the dark objects radiate heat, hold food and provide good overhead protection from avian predators.
“In the post-spawn, fish get under docks to relax after the stressful spawning process,” explained Randy Pope, a professional crappie angler from Hickory, N.C. “We hit every dock we can find until we figure out which ones hold fish. Sometimes, we catch one or two fish off a dock and then move to the next one. Sometimes, we catch a bunch of fish off one dock without moving.”
Any dock with rod holders attached to the rails and lights positioned to shine over the water probably offers good fishing. Frequently, dock owners drop Christmas trees, yard debris, branches or other material around their piers to create more fish habitat within casting range. Some dock owners even toss out food morsels that attract freshwater shrimp, sunfish, shiners, shad, and other forage species. In addition, algae growing on boats tied to docks for long periods provide food for minnows, attracting more crappie.
Anglers can troll around docks or cast small jigs toward them. Many anglers “shoot the docks,” by slinging baits under the overhead cover to tempt crappie few other anglers can reach. A live minnow dangled next to a dock piling might also work. Also fish nearby brush piles, which provide cover for minnows and other morsels.
Whether shooting docks, casting or trolling, don’t stop fishing for crappie just because the weather turns a little warmer. Crappie must eat all year long. Since they must eat, they just might eat your bait.
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